Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Genre: YA historical
Rep: Ownvoices, Black
Format: audiobook

I’ve had this book on my TBR for ages, but didn’t realize it was about a POC main character until I was looking for books for my reading challenge and it came up on a Goodreads list. Flygirl follows a young, light skinned, female pilot who has to give up flying at the start of WWII, as resources like fuel are redirected to the military. When a program to recruit female transport pilots (to deliver supplies and planes for the military to free up their male pilots for combat), Ida is quick to sign up, even though they don’t take black pilots. Forging her license, she doesn’t tell the recruiter that she’s not white; simply allows the woman to draw her own conclusions. Impressed by Ida’s manner, she offers her a position in training.

If the military finds out about the ruse, however, a court martial could be the least of her worries. Though she loves flying, staying in the military means denying her family and her heritage, but going back home to the Jim Crow south means denying every part of herself as an individual.

I loved this book from beginning to end. Ida is beautifully human in her choices, both good and bad; her mistakes, and her efforts to help others and improve the lot of Blacks who can’t pass the way she does. She risks life and limb every day she wakes up on base.

If you’re a fan of WWII narratives or books about women breaking glass ceilings, this is definitely a good book to pick up.

Saving Savannah by Tonya Bolden

Genre: YA historical
Rep: Ownvoices, Black

This was the first book I checked out for my Authors of Color Reading Challenge. Yes, I am finally caught up enough on my reviews to start in on the challenge I set for myself in June. -_-

Saving Savannah follows a young black woman from an affluent family in the early 1920s. Savannah is bored and feeling caged in. She knows there is more to the world than the teas and social events her mother arranges, but she doesn’t know how to get involved in them. She reminded me of a lot of ’20s era main characters I’ve seen, including Bright Young Things, Vixen, A Beautiful Poison, Brimstone, and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. The difference is that all of those main characters are white. Even the petty, spoiled, cowardly best friend could be pulled from those pages.

After about twenty pages or so, the story takes a sharp left. Savannah begins volunteering at a vocational school for young black women, and is slowly drawn into a world of political upheaval she was previously sheltered from. As 1919’s “Red Summer” consumes her entire Washington D.C. neighborhood and the surrounding area, Savannah has to come to terms with the hypocrisy in her own life. Fueled by guilt, she tries to use her privilege to help the new friends and allies she’s made, hoping to save at least one life. 

While I liked the overall story, this book wasn’t really to my taste. The writing was very choppy, broken up into one or two page sections that made it hard for me to really dive in and consume the story. However, I am glad I read it as it showed several different perspectives I was previously unfamiliar with, including prejudices that exist within the Black community.

It also serves once again as a reminder: Everything is Wilson’s fault.



On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Genre: YA contemporary
Secondary genre: Current affairs, BLM
CW: language, mentions of drug use and gang violence
Rep: Black, poverty, LGBT

While Angie Thomas’s books are not classified as a series, they are all set in the same world. You do not need to have read The Hate You Give to enjoy this book, though there will be some familiar faces and background information that might enrich the reading.

I’m not a fan of rap music, but I knew that was a big part of this book (Angie Thomas was a rapper in a previous life) to the point that it included lyrics, so I made sure to get the audio version of this book, and I highly reccomend it.

The Garden–the fictional neighborhood where Thomas’s books are set–has seen better days. Now it is a poverty-stricken neighborhood where gang violence rules the day, cops shoot first and ask quesetions later, and there are more boarded up shops than open stores–that the ones that are open usually have a shotgun under the till.

Yet this is where Bri calls home. Her mother, a former drug addict, works hard to send Bri to an arts high school in another neighborhood. But when her mother gets laid off, things are more than dire for Bri and her family. With the heat and power shut off and little in the pantry, Bri longs to use her voice to bring her family finacial freedom. Sick of taking handouts, she enters the ring–a weekly rap battle run by a local DJ that has spawned world famous rappers. It even kicked off her dad’s career, before a gang shooting ended it and his life.

But Bri’s words go further than intended and take on meanings she never intended. Now the school is threatening to expel her, the cops thing she’s a danger, and the gang that killed her father has put it’s sights on her. Fame and fortune can’t come fast enough, but even if they do, will they be enough to get her out of the Garden?

While this isn’t the usual type of book for me, I love Angie Thomas’s writing and I found her first book to be incredibly moving. While Bri and I come from vastly different backgrounds, I still found her extremely relatable. She is an absolute Queen, though she learns a lot through the course of the book. I would actually love to see a follow up story about her and the colorful cast of characters from this book.